Huu-ay-aht First Nations commits $400k to help children

Executive council is acting on the recommendations of the Independent Social Services Panel

The Huu-ay-aht First Nations executive council has committed $400,000 to improve child and family services for Huu-ay-aht families.

Since the fall of 2016, work has been underway within the Nation to build a future where Huu-ay-aht children are safe, happy, healthy, and connected with their families. An independent, four-member panel was appointed by the executive council to explore and recommend changes and improvements that can be made under the Maa-nulth Treaty to child and family services for Huu-ay-aht families.

This week Huu-ay-aht’s executive council announced it is acting on the recommendations made by this panel. After hearing a presentation from the panel members, council voted in favour of allocating $400,000 to act on some of the 30 recommendations made in the panel’s report.

“It’s time this Nation stood up and said we are going to take care of our children,” Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. said.

“Today we can focus on an approach that prevents Huu-ay-aht children to be taken away from their families. We were very vulnerable under federal and provincial family services regimes who systematically removed Huu-ay-aht children from their families and homes.

“Today, we begin our journey to keep our families intact and provide support and services to ensure Huu-ay-aht children are not removed from their families.”

Council’s decision will provide interim funding for the social service project in support of the immediate implementation of portion of the recommendations. This enables the nations to get a jump start on the recommendations while they are in consultation with their citizens, a press release noted.

Huu-ay-aht Councillor Sheila Charles was instrumental in starting this project, and said she is pleased with the outcome so far.

“I am very, very pleased with how the panel listened to me and each and every person that they talked to through this process. They kept their focus on keeping families together, not tearing them apart,” she said. “My vision is to prevent children from being taken in the first place, and the 30 recommendations will help make that a reality.

“These recommendations are made in the spirit of support, prevention, and healing. We recognize that apprehension is not the way to go even when a child is not being cared for in a good way because the act of removing a child causes harm and inflicts further trauma on all family members.

“We want to be proactive and preventative; providing support to parents on their healing path while aiming for least disruptive measures for the children. Our priority to protect the children while ensuring they are still connected with and cared for by family.”

Although pleased that executive council has committed to interim funding, Charles vows to keep pressing hard until all 30 recommendations are supported.

“It’s vital that we support citizens and, by following through on these recommendations, we can build a healthy and happy future for all Huu-ay-aht,” she says. “These recommendations take into consideration the healing needed to overcome the intergenerational issues that reside from colonization – it is designed to support not only the children, but also the parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles that make up their family.”

Charles says the challenge now is to determine where to start. She sees staffing as a priority and is eager to get started on building a team to advocate for citizens.

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